I was sitting in my room at college, reviewing my notes, when the door opened and Patrick came in.
“Hi Theo!” he greeted me. “How ya doing? Did you have a good time back home?”
“Yeah, I did,” I replied. “What about you?”
He shrugged. “Same old, same old.”
He put his suitcase on his bed, unzipped it, and began unpacking.
It was the second of January, and I’d just come back from my home town that very morning; I’d spent almost a week with my family, just hanging around, and celebrating the New Year. I’d especially bonded with my siblings, Peter and Leah – even more than I previously had: we spent lots of time hanging around together, and talking about things, which when Mother wasn’t within earshot included me being transgender, and Leah being a lesbian. They’d asked me many questions, especially regarding any changes I wanted to make, and what they could expect from it, to which my reply was: I had no idea, I still had to figure everything out. I’d only realised I was transgender less than a week earlier, so I had to explore, feel around, find what felt good and what didn't. I was considering medically transitioning – with hormones, and whatnot – but hadn’t come to a firm decision on that, either. Luckily Peter and Leah were understanding, they realised I needed time. But I did tell them my real name, Allie, and they’d begun using it, along with feminine pronouns, whenever our mother couldn’t hear us. It was a wonderful feeling: I never thought such a small thing could make such a big difference.
But alas, all good things must come to an end: I obviously had had to go back to college, I couldn’t well stay in my home town for the foreseeable future. And that meant another round of coming outs.
At Bradford McKinley there was no one, besides Lena and Lexi, who knew I was trans; the two girls had said that they would not out me to anyone without my permission, but that they knew many people who would be accepting – Roger and Nathaniel, for example, Roger being Lexi’s boyfriend and the two of them (plus Lena) having basically grown up together with Nat. Also, everyone on the triathlon team who wasn’t a freshman, notably Simon and Coach Davis, knew about Lexi, since she’d publicly come out to the team near the end of the previous year, and none of them had a problem with it – or, if they did, they hadn’t said anything about it. And Lexi had offered to introduce me to the school counsellor, whom she said had helped her a lot the previous year, while she was figuring stuff out, and I’d agreed: we would figure out a good time for the two of us, make an appointment, and go together for the first time.
And then, of course, there was Patrick.
According to Lena, the two of them had suspected I might be transgender, considering the way I’d behaved while I had a fever; and she’d said that Pat hadn’t said anything negative about it – rather, he’d been concerned about me. Also, he’d noticed I wasn’t answering or reading any of his messages on the twenty-sixth of December, and he’d compared notes with Lena and Lexi on the twenty-seventh; then, on their urging, he’d phoned Darrell, asking him to let the two girls in to check on me.
After I’d recharged my phone I’d exchanged a few texts with him, but nothing much; I hadn’t mentioned the revelation I’d had. He had asked me about his present, how I’d liked it, and I’d replied I would tell him in person once we saw each other again.
All in all, despite me knowing Pat only for a few months, I thought he was a nice guy; I was almost certain he would accept me if I were to come out to him. I wasn’t a hundred percent sure, but I had a good feeling.
Well, there was just one way to find out.
“Pat?” I called out to him.
“Hm, yeah?” he replied, not looking up from the suitcase he was emptying.
“I’m a girl.”
Patrick froze, a bundle of clothes in his hands. He half-turned, looking over his shoulder to me.
“I’m sorry, what was that?” he asked.
“I’m a girl,” I repeated. “I’m transgender. It means--”
“I know what it means,” he said. He dropped the clothes he was holding on his bed, and turned around fully to face me. “Since when?”
I thought about his question; there was only one real answer, wasn’t there? “Since always, I guess,” I answered. “But I only figured it out on Christmas.” I paused. “It was you who made me figure it out, actually.”
His eyebrows rose in surprise. “Me?”
“Yeah,” I nodded. “It was your present, the dress, that put the final nail in the coffin. Once I’d put it on, once I saw myself in it, there was no going back.”
“Oh,” he said. Then, after a moment, he added: “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have.”
I shook my head. “Don’t be. I would’ve figured it out eventually, probably on the same day even, because of… Stuff.” I saw a questioning look in his eyes, and waved my hand, “I’ll spare you the details. Your present just sped things up.”
“I’m still sorry,” he said. “I’d talked about it with Lena, even, after--”
“When I got that fever, I know. She told me.”
“Right,” he nodded. “And we’d decided not to tell you about it, that you would figure it out on your own. And then I went and bought you a dress.” He sighed. “I don’t know what I was thinking, really. I just wanted to do something nice for you.”
“Well, you did do something nice for me,” I replied. “I really like the dress.” Then I smirked. “Though I advise you not to be caught alone by Lena for a while.”
“And why is that?”
“No reason, really.”
There was a moment of silence, then Pat spoke up again. “Okay, so you’re a girl. What do I call you?”
“Allison,” I answered. “Allie for short. Though not in public, not until I say so.”
He nodded. “Yeah, I can see why. Well, nice to meet you, Allie,” he said.
He spread his arms wide, inviting me in for a hug; I stood up from my chair, and walked over to him. We exchanged a brief – though tight – hug, and then separated. After a moment, he turned back to his suitcase, while I went back to studying: no more words needed to be said.
After a few minutes, he was apparently done; I heard him shut his closet, and slide his suitcase under his bed. Then he wordlessly left the room, while I continued studying – I had slacked off during the winter break, so I needed to get back up to speed before classes started again in a couple days.
It was about half an hour before I heard the door open again, but I didn’t pay it any mind: sharing a room with Pat, we’d each become used to the other coming and going, and we seldom paid any attention to it. It wasn’t until I heard him clear his throat that I turned around.
“Yes?” I said, but then froze upon looking at him.
He was standing a few steps away from me, holding up a plate of pancakes, with butter and maple syrup on top, and had a wide smile on his face.
I blinked. “What’s this?” I asked.
“It’s cake!” he replied. “Well, pancakes, really. I’ve never made proper cake in my life, but pancakes are easy enough, and they’re also cake, at least according to the name. I used pancake mix, by the way, not enough time to learn to make them from scratch.”
“O… Kay?” I hesitantly said. “And why have you made pancakes?”
“To celebrate, of course!”
I blinked again. “Celebrate?”
“Yes, to celebrate you realising who you really are, Allie!” he said. “See, here, on top? I tried to write Congrats Allie! with the maple syrup, but it kinda oozed so you can’t really make it out properly.”
I was really moved; and he was so earnest, I couldn’t help but smile. “This is really sweet. Thank you, Pat.”
“Come on, give them a taste,” he continued, setting the plate down on my desk and handing me a fork. “You’re the chef among the two of us, tell me if you like them.”
Still smiling, I took the fork from him, and cut off a bit of pancake, which I put in my mouth; I chewed for a while, and then swallowed.
Pat was looking at me expectantly. “Quite good,” I said. “A bit too sweet for my tastes, but you did very well. Was this your first time?”
He nodded. “Yeah, it was.”
“It’s impressive, really. We’ll make a cook out of you yet.”
“Oh, there’s no rush,” he replied. “Not when I have my cute roommate to cook for me, anyway.”
I just stared at him, my smile becoming a bit fixed on my face.
Had he just…
Had he just called me cute?
I shook myself. “Still. I won’t be here for you forever, you know.”
His face seemed to fall for a fraction of a second, just a tiny bit, but he quickly recovered; I probably just imagined it.
“But seriously, you did really well for your first try,” I continued, taking another bite of the pancakes. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome, Allie,” he replied, with a warm smile.
He seemed to hesitate a bit. Then, quicker than I could react, he put his hands on my shoulders, leaned in, and gave me a brief peck on the cheek.
“Well,” he said, straightening himself back up. “I should review my notes a bit, too. Those planetary atmospheres aren’t going to study themselves.”
He turned away from me, sat down in his chair, pulled out his study materials, and got to studying.
I was left staring at his back, dumbfounded, my hand rising to my cheek where he’d kissed me.
What the hell had just happened?
The next day, after my morning run, I checked my phone and saw I had a message from Lena. We’d kept up with each other while I was visiting my family, even more than normal: she’d been really happy to hear I’d managed to come out to my siblings, and that they were accepting. In the message, she was asking me if I wanted to go to the mall with her: she knew of a place where I could try on some make-up in an accepting environment, without anyone there to judge me, and wanted to know if I wanted to try. Only if you want to, though. No pressure.
I thought about it for a bit; but in the end, I did want to. It was a chance to try something new, see what fit and what didn’t: this was all new to me, and I needed to find out my likes and dislikes. Maybe I was one of those girls who wore lots of stuff on their faces, maybe I wasn’t; but I would never know, unless I started trying things out. So I texted Lena back, agreeing to her proposal.
Just after lunch, Lena and Lexi picked me up in Lexi’s car, to make the drive to the mall; I’d also invited Patrick to come, but he’d waved off the invite, saying he had other things to do. The drive to the mall was completely uneventful, we just spent some time chatting about how we’d spent the end-of-year holidays: apparently Lena and Lexi’s grandparents had come to visit, as did their aunts with their kid. I thought that it was nice to be able to have a family to keep up with, and I briefly wondered if that would still be the case for me after I’d come out to the rest of my relatives.
As we moved through the mall, I noticed where we were heading: it was the same store where I’d had my hair cut, not even two months before. Lena noticed my hesitation, and she smiled at me.
“Don’t worry, Allie,” she said. “Molly is a friend, and a really good ally to boot. And we made sure she was alone in her shop today, so there’s nothing to be concerned about.”
I hesitantly nodded, and kept following Lena and Lexi. When we got to Molly’s store, they knocked on the glass door – apparently it was locked. After a brief moment, Molly came up to it, unlocked it, and let us in.
“Alright,” she said, after we’d entered the store. “Now, do you mind telling me what this is all about? You called me this morning, asking me if I could open shop this afternoon, and bring my make-up stuff, without giving me a reason beyond saying ‘You’ll see.’ Well?”
She put her hands on her hips, and looked at Lena and Lexi, who glanced at each other.
“Well…” Lexi began. “Do you remember what happened like… Eleven months ago? Or thereabouts?”
Molly smiled. “How could I forget? It was a hell of a ride, wasn’t it?”
“It was,” Lena replied. “And, just out of curiosity, have you ever seen Twin Peaks?”
“The TV series?” Molly said. “No, never. Why?”
“Well, there is a scene in there, that is almost a meme. A character has a vision of another character looking at them and saying, It is happening again, over and over,” Lena said. “Well…”
She turned to look at me, and Molly followed her gaze. After a few moments, she blinked. “Oh. You mean…?”
Lena and Lexi both nodded.
“I see,” Molly said, and a smile began to dawn on her lips. “So that is why you asked me to bring my make-up stuff, isn’t it.”
“Yeah, it is,” Lexi said. “We thought, since you did it once before, who better to show her the ropes?”
“Well, you came to the right place,” she said; she walked to me, grabbed me by the hand, and dragged me towards one of the chairs. “Right this way… What was your name again?”
“Th-- Allie,” I replied.
“Well, Allie, take a seat right here, and we’ll get started.” I complied, and she spun the chair around to face the mirror. “Now, what did you want done?”
“Let’s just begin with the basics,” Lena said. “We can get to the more fancy, elaborate stuff later on. If Allie wants to, of course.”
“Very well,” Molly replied. She put a hand on my shoulder. “You okay with that, girl?”
I nodded. “Yeah, let’s do this,” I said. In truth, I was a bit hesitant, but Lena and Lexi seemed to trust Molly, and I trusted them, so I saw no reason not to go along with it for the time being.
Molly quickly set up a black, tall case on the counter, and produced a simple headband – also black – from it, which she used to pull back my hair, exposing my whole face, including all of the forehead. “It’s important to do this before starting off,” she explained. “Otherwise you risk getting make-up on your hair. It’s not bad, it’s just that you’ll have to wash it off afterwards.” I nodded.
“Okay, let’s see. First off, let’s put on a base.” She showed a bottle to me, which seemed full of a pinkish, almost transparent paste. “It smooths your skin, makes the other stuff go on easier.” She spread a bit of the stuff on my face, not too much, but enough to cover every inch of exposed skin.
From there she moved on to the various steps: foundation and blush for the face, eyeliner and mascara for the eyes, lip pencil and lipstick on my mouth, and a bit of colour on my eyebrows, “To make everything really pop and bring the whole look together.” While she was working she kept selecting what she called “The appropriate shade for your skin colour – you wouldn’t believe how often girls pick the wrong one, and the result is a disaster,” while I on the other hand took careful mental notes of everything she was doing and how, so that I could repeat it later; though I was sure I would need lots of practice. It was amazing to see the look slowly coming together, my face slowly but surely transforming; it’s incredible what just a little bit of make-up can do.
When Molly was done she took off my headband with a flourish, and fluffed my hair back in position. “Ta-da!” she exclaimed.
I looked at myself in the mirror, mesmerised. I looked completely different: while I was still recognisably me, there was barely any trace of the boy’s face that had been staring back at me a few minutes earlier. I turned my head this way and the other, looking for something, a detail that would break the illusion, but I simply couldn’t find it.
Out of the corner of my eye I could see the other three girls just looking at me, a smile on their faces. “Well, do you like it?” Lexi asked.
“I do,” I nodded. “It’s amazing.”
“Molly is seriously good,” Lena said. “She really knows her stuff. And I have to say, you look fantastic.”
“Really?” I said, turning to look at her. “You really think I look good?”
“Uh. Um,” she said; her cheeks seemed to redden up a bit as her eyes met mine. “Really. I wouldn’t be telling you that if it weren’t the truth.”
“It’s a shame you have to wash it all off just after putting it on,” Lexi said.
I blinked. “Wash it off?”
Lexi shrugged her shoulders. “Well, you don’t have to. You can wear it out of the store and keep it on until it’s time to go to bed tonight, if you think you’re ready.”
A mental image of me, a face full of – admittedly really good – make-up, walking through the mall, across the parking lot, into my dorm, and up to my room, ran through my mind; I imagined everyone looking at me. That was the point, really; if I kept the make-up on, I’d have to face the stares, especially since I wasn’t dressed for the occasion – I’d worn my best outfit, but it was still masculine clothing.
I sighed. “I’ll take it off.”
Molly nodded. “Alright, let me show you how.”
Again, she put my hair up, and she showed me how to use remover to wipe off everything she’d put on my face.
“And don’t forget to moisturise afterwards,” she said, massaging a bit of cream into my face.
“Thank you,” I nodded.
“Don’t even mention it. Now, here’s everything we used today,” she said, pointing at the spread of products that were lying on the counter. “I’ll give them to you at cost; the lesson’s on the house.”
I blinked. “Really?”
“Really,” she nodded. “I know figuring this stuff out isn’t easy, so I gotta do my part, right?” She smiled at me.
I went to fish my wallet out of my pocket, but Lena stopped me.
“It’s on me, Allie,” she said.
Again, I said: “Really?”
“Of course. You gave me a Christmas present after all; consider this mine.”
“Thanks, Lena,” I replied.
She smiled. “Anything for my cute friend.”
I felt blood rise to my cheeks.
Like Patrick the day before, she’d called me cute.
As Lena handed some bills to Molly, I noticed them and Lexi giving me the side-eye, a smirk on their faces.
We made the trip back to my dorm in silence, as I thought about everything. As I basked in the best feeling I’d ever felt in my life.
Two of my friends had called me cute. Without prompting.
And it felt so good.
When we reached the dorm, I grabbed the shopping bag containing the make-up Lena’d bought me (along with a small bag to hold everything, which Molly had thrown in as a freebie), and got out of the car, saying goodbye to my friends. I made a few steps towards the doors, when I heard Lena call for me: she’d gotten out of the car, too, and was looking at me.
“Yes?” I asked, walking back to her.
“Allie, I…” she began, grabbing my hands with her and looking at me in the eyes. She stopped, as if she was unsure what to say.
“Yes?” I asked again.
She seemed to hesitate, then shook her head. “Never mind. I had fun today,” she smiled.
Then she darted forward, and gave me a quick peck on the cheek.
“Good night, Allie,” she said; she got back in the car, and she and Lexi drove away.
I was left staring dumbfounded after the car, my hand slowly rising to touch my cheek where she’d kissed it.
What the hell had just happened?